Exclusive Interview & Mix by DJ Ry Toast
Meet Los Angeles based, DJ Ry Toast.. Growing up in Jersey in the 90s, her style is strongly rooted in New York hip hop, but her sound has no boundaries. She lives for “feel good” music. Even in the grittiest of hip hop sets, Ry Toast has a way of infusing a certain kind of soulfulness that elevates the vibe of any venue she plays. She is quickly gaining production chops, and constantly putting out personalized edits and remixes.
Her impressive resumè speaks for itself, having played with hip hop heavy hitters DMX, Nas, Wu Tang Clan, and Masta Ace, and rawkin’ stages with DJ legends Shortkut, Neil Armstrong and Z Trip. She’s the true definition of girl power proudly representing women artists across the globe.
We had the pleasure of interviewing this bad babe, learning about her roots and love for hip hop. Ry was also kind enough to contribute to our Raw Femme Mix Series, with a mix of tracks that truly make a statement.
“This project was inspired by outrage for what we have done/are doing to our black community. It’s a difficult and painful subject; one the needs to be addressed if we stand any chance to heal as a society. We have come a long way but we still have so far to go.” – Respect & love, Ry Toast
What initially inspired you to become an artist?
I was so obsessed with Hip Hop as a kid. I would save up babysitting money to buy CDs. Nas, Busta Rhymes, Biggie Smalls, Tribe Called Quest, Wu Tang, Redman, all got me through high school. I would run home, put them in my boom box, press play, take the album notes out of the case and pour over every word and image. In college I started going to hop hop shows and buying records. I didn’t even have turntables or any way to listen to them, I just LOVED having the records from the shows. The closer I got to Hip Hop, the more I realized I needed to find a way to be a part of it. DJing was my in and I took it and ran with it!
Tell me about your first experience as a DJ.
My first experience DJing was awful! I was opening for a hip hop act at The Starry Night Lounge in Vermont, where I went to college. All I had was super random underground records like Atmosphere, Sage Francis, etc (artists I love but NOT really party music you feel me? But there were pre-serato days so I had to make due with the records I had!) I was struggling learning beat matching. I had to plan out every element of my set. I spent more time prepping for that than writing my freakin’ college thesis I think. I was so nervous. I had the song order written on a piece of crumpled notebook paper. Everything went wrong. The equipment broke down, the sound sucked, one of the rappers didn’t show up, barely any people even came, which probably was a good thing because I sucked.
How does music affect you and the world around you?
I mean… It’s everything. It’s the soundtrack to my life. My days are structured around digging for new music, editing tracks, planning sets, practicing skills. And now that I have my band, Tyrone’s Jacket, I am involved in every aspect of music. From writing to production to album artwork to the music business, it really is my whole life. I am blessed.
Are there certain bands/artists that influence your sound?
Absolutely. So much of my sound and style is rooted in 90’s NY Hip Hip. When people hear me DJ, they always ask me if i’m form the East Coast lol! I love Biggie’s simple words that create complex flows. I love Rakim for intricate rhyme patterns and positive content. I love nas- he’s a street prophet. I love Gangstarr. Guru’s knowledge over preemo’s beats? Can’t lose.
I have some artists who have a deep place in my soul tattooed. I have a portrait of Stevie Wonder on my left bicep, Rakim on my right, and Pac on my forearm. I have ODB, Biggie, MF Doom, and J Dilla also. I have some of my favorite lyrics from Nas, Gangstarr, and Pete Rock & CL Smoothe. All of those artist have influenced me to the max.
Since we formed our band though, I have to say that my bandmates influence my the most. It’s 3 of us. Me, my fiancé MudLUX, and our best friend Knowaking. Being around them is so inspiring. I never got into producing or writing music until I met them. I’m far from being an expert or anything like that, but they made me realize that I was limiting myself without even knowing it. Like, yeah, I’m a DJ and always will be, but that doesn’t mean I can’t do other things that call to me, like rap! or sing! or draw! Or whatever I want I mean the creative energy is overflowing once you tap into it. I love them both and am so honored to be in a group with them that it makes me want to push myself further and further each day.
Where is one place you’d like to play a live set that you haven’t already?
I really want to play the Boiler Room. and the Roots Picnic! and BoomBox LA is such a great party, I would love to get me a piece of that.
Explain why you refer to yourself as a “Unicorn” – probably because you’re so magical!
I think my friends started calling me a unicorn because of my seemingly random mix of skills and interests. Like a white girl who DJs that loves rap and tattoos and tequila. Also a devout yogi (I taught Bikram for a decade) and a vegan. These things dont really seem like they go together but they do because they are all me.
Now that I am growing into the term, it has taken on a different meaning to me. I have heard people tell me my whole life that I couldn’t do things because they weren’t realistic. I couldn’t be a DJ, I should get a “real” job. I couldn’t be a yoga teacher, the training was too expensive and then you make no money. Don’t get tattoos because people will judge you and you will limit your career. These are just a few silly examples, but there were so many things big and seemingly small. Ideas I had that everyone told me were not worth trying. But I did them anyway. And they lead me closer and closer to becoming who I am; finding happiness, my soulmate, and most importantly self love.
A lot of people don’t believe in Unicorns. A lot of people didn’t believe in me. But when you believe in your own magic, EVERYTHING is possible.
Name one person dead or alive who you’d love to cut a record with and why?
Tupac. I would love to hear how he would be rapping nowadays. Especially in this political climate. How would he be leading people now as opposed to how lead during the 90s? Maybe he would be an all out activist by this point? His life was on such a trajectory, I would love to have seen that evolution play out.
What constitutes a good live performance in your opinion?
You have to be having fun! And connect to your crowd!
What guilty pleasure songs would we have found on your MP3 player in high school?
I had a total thing for 311 and Mark Mcgrath… yeah.
What’s your interpretation of a Raw Femme?
A raw femme to me is someone who puts being herself over being perceived as feminine. Someone who is not concerned with trends or society’s beauty standard. Confident, strong, unapologetic. That is a Raw Femme.